Honoree Brendan Fraser attends the American Riviera Award Ceremony during the 38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre | Credit: Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF

Vying for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his critically acclaimed performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, Brendan Fraser is also a contender to be named “Nicest Person in the Industry,” according to moderator Pete Hammond. If last night’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival presentation of the American Riviera Award is any indication, Fraser is definitely a frontrunner.

From his first purposefully goofy ambling across the stage at the Arlington Theatre to his heartfelt final thank-yous to Hammond, to actress Sarah Michelle Gellar (who presented him with the award), to SBIFF, and even to the people of Santa Barbara, it was easy to see why Fraser has remained a fan favorite for his more than 30-year career, which started with School Ties (a film he discussed at some length) in 1992. 

“Get good and righteously terrified, bare your soul, and hope for the best. That’s what being an actor is,” said Fraser. 

That same year, Fraser also showcased his physical comedic chops to great effect in Encino Man. They screened clips from those two early films, after which he said, “I was fortunate to have diametrically opposing projects. I didn’t appreciate that at first. But I realize even more in watching that clip is how lucky that guy was.”

His humble attitude about his career and good humor carried throughout the night. After a clip of him jumping around in a loincloth, Fraser quipped, “If that’s the wardrobe, being nude, that’s the wardrobe. That’s your job, and I understood the assignment.” 

Other films spotlighted included Airheads, George of the Jungle, Gods and Monsters, Blast from the Past, The Mummy (and two sequels), Bedazzled (with a scene shot in Montecito), The Quiet American, and of course his latest critical success, The Whale.

Of that film, Fraser said, “This character hasn’t been created for the big screen before. … It’s a film that always had the intention to change hearts and minds. You’ll feel differently when you watch it, I promise  you.” 

Fraser ended the night with his American Riviera Award in hand and this shoutout to Santa Barbara: “It’s always had a certain cachet. It’s a place whose heart has artisans and craftspeople who harvest both crops and they harvest creativity, and it’s so easy to become smitten with the beauty of this unique place where you live.” 

It’s easy for us to become smitten with you too, Brendan Fraser.


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